Three new species broaden Christmas Bird Count

This is the first ruby-throated hummingbird spotted in Franklin County during a Christmas Bird Count

This is the first ruby-throated hummingbird spotted in Franklin County during a Christmas Bird Count.

Michael Brothers
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 14:12 PM.

The number of birds counted during this year’s Christmas Bird Count was up from 2012, with three new species added to the county life list.

On Dec. 27, 30 volunteers traveled 242 miles by foot, car and boat to count 11,573 birds of 139 species during the 2013 count. This is significantly less than two years earlier, in 2011, when more than 24,000 birds were observed during the CBC. But like last year, windy and inclement weather, especially in the morning, was a factor in the lower count.

The number of species, 139, is slightly higher than the annual average of 134, since the CBC began locally in 1994. Franklin County organizer John Murphy said the tally is contingent on the acceptance of 10 rare species by the CBC’s organizers at Audubon.

Seen here for the first time during a CBC was a flock of four sandhill cranes spotted over land near Magnolia Cemetery . Sandhills are the world’s most common crane, an ancient bird with a close relative dating back to the Miocene Epoch.

Today, sandhills are found mainly in North America . They breed in the northern U.S. , Canada , Alaska , and Siberia and travel to wintering grounds in Florida , Texas , Utah , Mexico , and California . December is unusually late for sandhills still to be on the move in Florida skies.

Also seen here for the first time during a CBC was a ruby-throated hummingbird feeding in the same Apalachicola historic district feeder as a buff-bellied hummingbird and calliope spotted last year. Although ruby throats are the most common hummingbird in this area, most leave the Panhandle for the winter and migrate to Mexico , Central America, and the Caribbean . A few remain in the Gulf states and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Remarkably, it is believed tiny migratory ruby throats cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single 18-to-20-hour marathon flight twice a year.

The third new addition to the local roster of species was a cave swallow spotted on a spoil island near the John Gorrie Bridge . Although they usually nest in natural caves and sinkholes, cave swallows will nest in or underneath manmade structures like bridges, which might explain their presence on the island.



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